By Mary Ellen Peacock, a participant of the Co-Sponsor Team
On Tuesday afternoon, November 17, members of the resettlement team met with Lee Welch of KRM and the Antakli family to bring our three-month formal commitment for co-sponsorship to a close. It was fun to review all the progress this young family has made on their road to self-sufficiency. The parents, Shadi (father) and Hanadi (mother), are attending ESL classes regularly and are making excellent progress with their English. Ten-year-old Hasan and five-year-old Tuqa are enrolled in school and doing well. The children are very handsome and well mannered, and while Hasan went around and shook hands with everyone, Tuqa shook a couple of hands and then shyly waved!
Shadi completed the process of getting his Kentucky driver’s license. He passed the written exam in Arabic and practiced with church members for the driving test. Through the generosity of a church family, a used car was donated to KRM for the family as well. When asked what the biggest challenge of resettlement was, Hanadi immediately said, “The bus!” Despite the day-to-day difficulties, the family has established their routines and learned their way around the neighborhood. They can do their own grocery shopping and make sure the children get to school. They have made friends in the Syrian community. In November, the Antakli family hosted an evening meal for members of the Highland resettlement team, an event that was greatly enjoyed by all those who attended. In December, Shadi was hired to work at Anderson Wood. As a carpenter, Shadi can use his skill and trade in his first job in the United States.
Lee Welch emphasized that KRM will be available for any services that are still needed for the next five years. However, the family seems to be well on their way to independence and self-sufficiency. Several team members will continue their connections in a more informal way. Judy Stubbs has given invaluable aid with her twice-weekly tutoring sessions with the family, and others have provided transportation, playtime and learning with the children, and information about resources. It has been a joyous experience for all involved, and a welcome antidote to the negative media attention to “dangers” of resettlement of Syrian refugees. The Antaklis are aware of the fear-based messages in the news, and they wanted to assure everyone that “Syrians are good people!” We hope we can ease their way into their new life by continuing to make them feel welcome and secure in their new home.
Editor’s Note: A special thank you goes to the many hands that allowed Highland to support the Antakli’s. Many people offered support, but these individuals provided a high level of commitment during our co-sponsorship: Terry Fontenot, Mary Ellen Peacock, Eric and Julie Hansen, Tracy Morrison, Judy Stubbs, Dean Adams, Kathy Reed, Steven Holmes, Stephanie Letson, and Mary Ellen Harned.